"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."


“The Masonic system represents a stupendous and beautiful fabric, founded on universal purity, to rule and direct our passions, to have faith and love in God, and charity toward man.”
— William Howard Taft

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Who Would Want An Old Masonic Lodge?


Got a deep-rooted desire to live in a former Masonic lodge? Twenty years ago, I might have jumped at this.




The former home of Alexandria Lodge No. 235 in Alexandria, Indiana is up for sale for the bargain basement price of just $69,000 (CLICK HERE). The lodge itself was absorbed by nearby Frankton Lodge 607 in 2015, but their former Temple was unique. 




The 11,000 square foot building started life as a private home, and its most recent owners essentially restored the front portion to that original use. 



It has been modernized with five bedrooms and a serviceable kitchen, but its truly magnificent woodwork from the original house is throughout the living areas. Looks like the bathrooms could use a major overhaul, and I see lots of ceiling fans and no outdoor compressor, which make me wonder about air conditioning.




But then walk to the back of the house and you will find the whole lodge room intact and virtually untouched and unaltered, added in what appears to have been the 1920s or so.



If the Hodapps didn't want to downsize our current living arrangements, I'd have snapped it up before telling the rest of you about it. In fact, I'd have snapped it up before telling Alice about it. Then we would have had have plenty of space in which she could refuse to speak to me over it for the next 20 years.

It's located at 414 North Harrison Street in the little town of Alexandria. The sale is pending as of the ad today, but maybe you could outbid them. 

Of course, this isn't the only private residence in a former Masonic temple around here. This one is a manageable size, but a California couple and their three kids decided to take on a much more gargantuan temple to make into a home. 



Huntington, Indiana Masonic Temple now a private home



Theresa and Atom Cannizzaro were originally just looking for a Midwest farmhouse surrounded by a couple hundred acres of land. Then the San Diego couple fell in love with the beautiful former Huntington, Indiana Masonic temple that was originally the home of Amity Lodge 483. They took possession of the building in October 2016, and they've been rehabbing it ever since. 


According to a newspaper article from last year, the Cannizzaros bought most of the original furniture along with the building. 


Amity Lodge moved to a smaller building on the edge of town.



The lodge left behind an entire library of books, paperwork including materials from the building’s 1927 dedication, and other bits and pieces of Masonic history. 

The old lodge room.



The dining hall features a small theater stage at the opposite end. The Cannizzaro kids think of it as the world biggest playroom.





1927 newspaper announcing the Temple's dedication.
Freemasons were front page news then.
The family foresees eventually opening a business in the basement, possibly a brewery. They're in no hurry to finish, and it's truly a labor of love. You can follow their story and their projects at www.freemasontomansion.com.

I just find it fascinating that time after time, private individuals manage to buy, renovate and save the very buildings that entire lodges filled with members claim are too expensive or difficult to maintain. Others seem perfectly happy to keep forking hay at our "white elephants." Why do so many Masons seem so willing to cast them off?










So This Is Sixty, Is It?

Eh?! 



As so many Facebook and private e-mail friends have piled on today to wish me a happy birthday, I'd like to thank each and every one of you. With more than 700 already, I've given up trying to go in and acknowledge every one of them.


That said, I now openly admit to turning 60 today, which I suppose is some sort of milestone or millstone, perhaps. In fact, with now 60 of them, I've basically been celebrating birthdays for two months of my lifetime. Sixty is the birthday that is supposed to signal the crossover from "middle aged" into full-fledged geezerhood. You go from "Get off my lawn" and "Aren't you too damned young to be a doctor?" straight into shopping for golf carts and having entire portions of your body independently deciding to give up the ghost and void the warranty. 

When you're 40, you start asking about Viagra. 

At 50, you start forging prescriptions for the stuff, or just demanding it outright with high decibel screams. 

By 60, you can't remember why.

From 60 onward there's more behind us than in front of us, and I've already been scoping out nice burial plots. With a view, just in case. And ostentatious headstone designs. Preferably involving solar powered LED lighting. After a lifetime of lowering property values in every neighborhood I've ever inhabited, I'd at least like to follow through in death. Deceased Russian mobsters seem to be a good inspiration in that regard.

Russian crime lords have the best headstones 

At prior ten year intervals, there have been parties or other special memorable events. When I turned 40, I had just petitioned for the degrees of Freemasonry and would become an Entered Apprentice in another three days. Of course, I had also just purchased my first Chrysler and had two sets of golf clubs in the trunk, so I thought life was all but over then. Just ten years later – on my 50th – I was being interviewed for my first Masonic television show by A&E, and had lunch with the video crew at Gadsby's Tavern in Alexandria. 


In the last ten years, I've survived obesity, a 14 pound goiter, heart failure, stomach cancer, partial blindness, partial deafness, drug interaction-induced insanity, and I can't smell anything anymore. By the way, nobody will tell you, but chemo makes your original teeth fall out at random moments, usually at a public dinner right before you are expected to make a speech. All in all, I feel pretty good. I answer to the name "Lucky."


That's how strange life can be when you aren't paying attention. You never know. No one ever knows. 

Which is why a longstanding, common theme of Freemasonry and most major fraternal organizations over the last three centuries has been, in order to live a better life, contemplate Death, and live every day as though it's your last one. That's what all of those skulls and crossbones are about. You find that you don't go to waste that way.

This year, Alice and I will mark this occasion quietly at home. With some of my past health issues, she's been handed a shovel by more pudding-faced doctors and told to take me for one last trip to Disneyland more times than I can shake an ear trumpet at. They even advised me to skip Epcot the last time. Notwithstanding, I'm still kicking and don't intend to shuffle off this mortal coil voluntarily, or anytime soon. I'm perfectly content with not joining the Great Majority until I am completely spent. Forged in the snows of February, we November babies are resilient.

Speaking of ear trumpets, I am scheming for the next millstone birthday, my 65th in 2023. Since that half-decade mark is when the Social Security Administration officially declares you to be a discarded fossil, I'm already planning ahead.

Evelyn Waugh's personal ear trumpet 

At 65, the English author Evelyn Waugh (best known for the two wildly different works, Brideshead Revisited and The Loved One) officially declared himself to be "old." At that point, his son jokingly bought him an old fashioned Victorian ear trumpet, and Waugh carried it the rest of his life. He was known to brandish the thing and punctuate his conversations with it, more than once poking an argumentative adversary in the chest with it. More to the point, when he didn't want to listen to someone anymore, he simply pulled it away from his ear and pretended not to hear them at all. I'm already looking for one.

In truth, I've got better odds than most, which has been bourne out by my surviving multiple and bizarre surgical escapades and fallacious diagnoses over the last ten years. My father made it to 93, and still had his hair and his own teeth when he went. Meanwhile, my mother who is about to turn 90 in January (also in full possession of her choppers and coiffed hair) has already called to demand that I get a haircut. She does this once a week, and has ever since I was four.

If I had an ear trumpet, I'd simply claim I can't hear it anymore.

Friday, November 16, 2018

MSA Issues Disaster Relief Appeal For California


The staggering figures I read before going to bed last night concerning the huge California fires in both the northern and southern parts of that state are horrific: 63 reported dead so far, and 631 people are currently listed as missing. These are far beyond mere brush fires, and more than 9,700 homes have been destroyed.



Consequently, the Masonic Service Association of North America has just issued a new Disaster Relief Appeal for California as of about 11:30AM this morning. It reads:

Most Worshipful Stuart A. Wright, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of California, has requested the Masonic Service Association of North America to issue a Disaster Relief Appeal. Wildfires have brought unprecedented death and destruction across the state. The Grand Lodge is aiding and assisting their Brothers, their families, and their communities in providing aid and assistance.
Grand Master Wright says, “The wildfires now raging in California are unlike anything we’ve seen before. The 215-square mile Camp Fire in Northern California is the deadliest in California history with over 10,000 structures destroyed and dozens of fatalities. The Woolsey Fire has burned nearly 100,000 acres in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties and has resulted in additional deaths and destroyed structures. Hundreds of Masons, their families, and widows have been evacuated, and many of them have lost their homes. Places of employment and education have been destroyed, making the immediate future of many in our Masonic family very uncertain.
“The loss has been great and, unfortunately, it will only become greater before the fires are contained. There is an immediate need for help.”
Please keep up to date at MSA's website, www.msana.com as well as MSA's Facebook Page and Facebook Group. This link can also be added to websites to direct donations through MSA.
Please forward any donations you feel appropriate to help in this stricken jurisdiction to MSA. Please make checks payable to MSA Disaster Relief Fund and send to 3905 National Drive, STE 280, Burtonsville, MD 20866. When remitting by check, please clearly mark that you wish the funds to go to the California Disaster Appeal.
All administrative expenses, bank charges, bookkeeping, and cost of acknowledgment letters is absorbed by MSA in its operating budget. Your entire donation will be sent to the affected jurisdiction. That's the way it's always been, and that's the way it will continue.
MSA is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.
To donate online via Paypal or for more information and for all current Disaster Relief Appeals by the MSA, visit the MSA website HERE or contact Simon LaPlace at 301-476-7330.

Click image to enlarge:





XVI World Conference Of Regular Masonic Grand Lodges



The XVI World Conference Of Regular Masonic Grand Lodges is going on this week in Panama City, Panama through tomorrow.

Most U.S. Masons rarely hear about these annual conferences, even if they happen in this country, and it's unusual to see follow-up reports afterwards to find out how their break out sessions and discussions went. It's a shame really, because they traditionally attempt to discuss items that go far beyond just the usual hand-wringing about membership losses, chasing Millennials or whatever the demographic de jour happens to be, or coming up with a new charity to promote. 


The role of Freemasonry and the Freemason individually in society
The challenges and changes in the global environment in which we live in, make instability the norm rather than the exception. Armed conflicts, violation of fundamental rights, deficiencies in basic issues such as health, food and education, present scenarios for which the Mason is generally not prepared to understand, much less play a role in solving them.
In this context, it is absolutely relevant that freemasons understand what their participation in the issues and problems facing society should be, to be discussed in order to form an opinion and to positively influence a way to their solution within their capacity for action.
Citizen training is increasingly complex and needs a redefinition of education in civic values to achieve a more democratic society with greater social cohesion.
Masonic education contributes to forming people who live in society with respect, tolerance, participation and freedom.
How to integrate ethical and moral values and the exercise of them to enable life in society, respect for fundamental rights and freedoms, for a democratic coexistence and mutual respect...

It's a shame that Masons as a rule don't discuss topics at this level in our lodge meetings, instead of arguing over who didn't clean up the kitchen last week or paying the toilet repair bill.  Maybe your next Stated Meeting might be a good place to shift the discussion to something more elevated.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

MSA Ends South Carolina Hurricane Appeal

The Masonic Service Association of North America has announced that the Hurricane Disaster Appeal for South Carolina that began on September 18th, 2018 has successfully concluded. Any funds earmarked for SOUTH Carolina arriving after today will now be forwarded to Florida's appeal.

Executive Secretary Simon LaPlace issued the following message earlier today:
The Grand Lodge of South Carolina has received a tremendous response from their Brethren and from Lodges from other Jurisdictions in light of the damages caused by Hurricane Florence.
Their Masonic Charities and Disaster Relief Board has determined that the requests they have received for assistance due to flooding can be met by the generous donations they have received from MSA and the additional donations from their Brethren.
Consequently, they have asked the Masonic Service Association to conclude our Disaster Relief Appeal and forward any future donations to the Grand Lodge of Florida on their behalf.
Thank you for supporting this Disaster Relief Appeal for South Carolina.

Please remember that MSA Disaster Appeals currently remain in place for Florida, North Carolina and Guatemala. Please see the MSA website HERE for current appeals and for donation information.

Brother Roy Clark Passes Away


Legendary country music guitarist, comedian, and Freemason, Brother Roy Linwood Clark, passed to the Celestial Lodge today at the age of 85, due to complications from pneumonia at his home in Tulsa, Oklahoma.


An unsurpassed virtuoso guitarist, Clark was perhaps most famous for his role as either host or co-host of the syndicated country comedy and variety television program 'Hee Haw' for the duration of its entire 24-year run.

Clark played the guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin, harmonica and other instruments. In the course of his long career, he earned seven CMA Awards over his decades-long career, including the Entertainer of the Year Award in 1973. His version of “Alabama Jubilee” earned him a Grammy in 1982. Brother Roy was also a regular performer with the Grand Ole Opry. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2009. 


Roy Clark was made a Mason "at sight" by the Grand Master of Oklahoma on December 9, 1987. Afterwards, Roy affiliated with Jenks Lodge No. 497 in suburban Jenks, Oklahoma as a "perpetual member." He subsequently sought additional Masonic light on his own, pursuing the Scottish Rite, York Rite, and Shrine. Illustrious Clark was elevated to the 32º in the Scottish Rite Valley of Tulsa in 1988, invested a Knight Commander of the Court of Honor in 1997, and coroneted an Inspector General Honorary 33º in 2001. In the York Rite, he was exalted in Tulsa Chapter No. 52, Royal Arch Masons, greeted in Tulsa Council No. 22, Cryptic Masons, and knighted in Trinity Commandery No. 20, Knights Templar, all in 1990. Akdar Temple, Shriners International, created him a Noble in 1988, and he also belonged to the Royal Order of Jesters.


During a fund raiser in Cleveland, Ohio many years ago, Clark praised the fraternity:
"I know of no other organization where you have a friend all over the world. It gives you peace of mind, especially travelling as much as we do."
"It was brought home to us last month when we were on tour in Regina, Saskatchewan," he explained. "Our guitar player, Frank Sandusky, had a blood vessel suddenly rupture in his neck, was rushed to the hospital, and the doctor's report was grave. When local brethren found out that he was a Mason they sent for his wife. They took her in, saw that she got back and forth to the hospital, and saw to her needs. It didn't cost her anything, and made an unpleasant situation more bearable — and that is what Masonry is all about. Frank is with us today, as my 'right arm' in the band and plays a lot of the beautiful harmony you'll hear."
While he was best known for playing country music, guitarists the world over praised his incredible virtuosity that transcended any particular genre. Perhaps the best example of his incredible talent and his ability to surprise his audiences came in an unlikely episode of the 1970s comedy 'The Odd Couple' when he played a stunning flamenco guitar solo (video below):



And then there's always the classic 'Dueling Banjos' with Buck Trent on Hee Haw:



Brother Roy Clark is survived by his wife of 61 years, the former Barbara Joyce Rupard, their four children, multiple grandchildren, and his sister, Susan Coryell. The Clarks had lived in Tulsa since 1974.

The world will not soon see anyone quite like Roy Clark again, and it will be a quieter and more barren place without him.

His column is broken and his brethren mourn.

Requiescat in pace.



(Many thanks to Brother Mark Wright for updated information about Brother Roy Clark's Masonic record.)

Monday, November 12, 2018

Minnesota Mason Fatally Shot


A Minnesota Freemason was shot and killed by a police officer last night who was responding to a fire alarm call at his home. Brother James Paul Hanchett, 61, of Shakopee, Minnesota was a 22-year member of Minnesota River Valley Lodge No. 6

According to preliminary reports, when police arrived at the house, he met them at the door and leveled a handgun at them. The police officer feared for his life and fatally shot him multiple times.

From a story on the Shakopee Valley News website this morning:

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension identified the Shakopee police officer who fired his weapon as Officer Thor Carlson, who has been with the Shakopee Police Department for 12 years. He has been placed on standard administrative leave, according to a BCA press release.

Based on the preliminary investigation, officers from the Shakopee Police Department responded to a fire alarm call at 823 Apgar Street South at 11:08 p.m. at the request of an alarm company. When officers attempted to make contact with the occupants of the residence, they encountered Hanchett at the door.

Officers were met at the front door by a man holding a handgun, according to the Shakopee Police Department. According to police, the man raised his gun and pointed it at one of the officers, who feared for his life and shot the man. Officers began performing life-saving measures on the man but he was later pronounced dead at St. Francis Regional Medical Center, according to a Shakopee police release. He died at 11:50 p.m., according to the medical examiner's report.

BCA crime scene personnel recovered a handgun from the scene. The officers were wearing body cameras and the incident was recorded, police said.

The BCA is continuing to conduct interviews and evaluate the body camera videos and other evidence from the scene to determine the events that led up to the shooting. When the investigation is complete, the BCA will turn its findings over to the Scott County Attorney’s Office for review.

According to Hanchett's obituary, he enjoyed fishing and hunting, loved his cat, Elliot, and was a Mason with the Minnesota River Valley No. 6 Lodge.
This story will be updated. 

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Saved By the Mystic Tie? - Mason Awarded French Legion of Honor

Brother Harry Wolfe congratulated by Guillaume Lacroix, Counsel General of France for the Midwest
On Tuesday of last week, Brother Harry A. Wolfe, longtime member of Englewood Lodge No. 715 in Indianapolis, was made a Knight of the French Légion d'Honor at a special ceremony in Franklin, Indiana at the Indiana Masonic Home, now known as Compass Park. The 98-year old veteran of the Normandy Invasion on D-Day was honored by Guillaume Lacroix, Consul General of France for the Midwest region of the United States. Present were representatives of Vice President Mike Pence and Governor Eric Holcomb, Congressman Trey Hollingsworth, Franklin Mayor Steve Barnett, Gen. Martin Umbarger (Ret.), and almost 100 other family members and friends.

Brother Wolfe was severely wounded during combat along the Seille River on the Lorraine front on November 8, 1944, and he credits his Masonic ring for perhaps saving his life at the hands of German medics.

The Order of Légion d'Honneur was created by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, and is given to reward military and civilian service to France.


Private Wolfe wasn't drafted, he enlisted in the U.S. Army on March 28, 1944, and became a rifleman for Company G, 318th Infantry Regiment, 80th Infantry Division, under the command of Gen. George S. Patton. 






“Everybody who lived in our society in those days realized that it was time we had to go to war. Our civilization was in terrible shape. Someone had to come forth and get rid of Nazism,” he said. “Thank God, we were the ones who went.”
Wolfe went from Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis to Camp Blanding, one of the primary training centers for replacement troops during the war. He was schooled in skills such as orienteering, marksmanship and lobbing grenades. His unit completed miles-long marches, spending nights at a time out in the Florida wilderness before finally completing a 25-mile hike.
The 17 weeks at the camp transformed him into a soldier. “I was 130 pounds when I went in, and I gained a pound a week, so I was 147 pounds when I went to war,” he said.
Wolfe and his unit left the U.S. in September 1944 aboard the Ile d'France, a luxury liner that had been repurposed as a troop ship. They arrived in Scotland, took a train to southern England and then was transported across the English Channel to Normandy Beach.
Throughout late September and October, he made his way to the front lines in eastern France.
[SNIP]
On the day he was injured, Wolfe and his unit were slogging through mud and rain on a mission to cross the Seille River as the Army pushed towards Germany.
Machine gun fire and mortar rounds forced them to sprint across a flooded channel, sliding in the mud for cover. Moments later, Wolfe was struck with what he described as “like the kick of a mule.”
His fellow soldiers forced a pair of captured German medics to treat his wounds in hopes of saving his life. After the soldiers left, the Germans could have easily shot him, or left him to die. Instead, they cleaned and dressed the wound, put on a tourniquet and covered him in rain gear.
Wolfe was a member of the Masonic Lodge; he had been inducted as a Master Mason in the organization the night before he shipped off for war. His wife, Elsie, had given him a beautiful ring to mark the occasion and he was wearing the ring when he was shot.
With no other way to explain their compassion, Wolfe believes they may have recognized him as a Mason.
“These two medics stepped aside and started mumbling between the two of them. They must have seen my ring, because they gave me the best kind of treatment I could have,” he said. “I often wonder if that wasn’t a brother Mason.”
Miraculously, the bullet that struck him had missed ligaments and the main artery, so his leg did not need to be amputated. Following surgery, Wolfe was returned stateside for his rehabilitation. After the war, he worked in the finance department at Fort Benjamin Harrison, then Job Corps, and eventually for the Internal Revenue Service. He lived much of his adult life in Vermont, Indiana and Arizona. 

For his bravery during combat, Harry has also been awarded the Bronze Star Medal, the European African Middle Eastern Ribbon with one Bronze Star, and the Purple Heart.
Seven weeks ago, he moved to Franklin and into Compass Park. Bill Pierce, administrator of the skilled nursing and rehabilitation center there says that, even in such a short time, Brother Wolfe has had an impact on those around him.
“Harry, to me, is the embodiment of an American soldier,” he said. “He’s a representation of what can happen in times of war. He’s representative of the battle scars, and those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice."

The cities of both Franklin and Indianapolis declared November 6th, 2018 to be “Harry A. Wolfe Day.” Lacroix and local military leaders, Command Sgt. Maj. James Brown, director of the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs, and Maj. Gen. R. Martin Umbarger (ret.), former head of the Indiana National Guard, all spoke about the impact Wolfe and his fellow soldiers made to the liberation of France in 1944. He was also presented with letters from Vice President Mike Pence and Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb honoring him.

He's been a Freemason for 72 years.

Read the rest of Brother Wolfe's story HERE. 

A video report from WXIN 59 can be seen HERE.


Saturday, November 10, 2018

Oklahoma Masons Withdraw Recognition of GL of Arkansas


THIS STORY HAS BEEN UPDATED AT 12:30AM 11/11/2018:

Oklahoma Masons have just voted to withdraw recognition of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas. Late this evening I have received several messages out of the Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Oklahoma that took place in Guthrie today. 

The vote was overwhelming: 558 Yes to 179 No. 

The Grand Lodge of Oklahoma VERY briefly withdrew recognition of Arkansas before  in 2016 by an edict of their then-grand master, but that quickly lapsed and amity was restored that same year. The Grand Lodge of Kansas also suspended recognition of Arkansas earlier this year.

The continuing saga with the Grand Lodge of Arkansas F&AM is too complex to explain simply here. According to reports from Oklahoma tonight, the principal justification for the withdrawal of amity has been an ongoing lack of due process for Arkansas Masons, which has made it difficult if not impossible for their former members to seek membership in other states. Reportedly, the final nail in the coffin today was an impassioned speech by a Medal of Honor recipient from Arkansas who begged Oklahoma to take this action.

The "Yellow Book" of Oklahoma's 2018 Reports and Resolutions is available online, and contains a summary of the situation on page 34, and the Resolution voted upon today, which reads in part:
Since 2012, the Grand Lodge F. & A.M. of Arkansas is known to practice removing members of the Craft from their jurisdiction who have not committed a masonic offense (e.g., cannot be a Shriner and an Arkansas Mason), and without due process (in essence, no right of appeal of sentence, or other remedy for grievances permitted). The basic due process of law is a citizen's right, guaranteed by the U. S. constitution (Fifth Amendment, ratified September 25, 1789; and Fourteenth Amendment, ratified July 9, 1868), and cannot be excluded under the guise of a trial process of a sovereign fraternal entity.
As no remedy has evolved over the past six years and none is foreseen, the committee recommends the Grand Lodge of A.F. & A.M. of the State of Oklahoma suspend recognition of the Grand Lodge of F. & A.M. of Arkansas, until the provision of due process of law is provided for by the Grand Lodge of Arkansas; and that the Grand Secretary notify their Grand Master accordingly.

Should the Craft adopt this recommendation the following impact would take
effect for Oklahoma.
First, no impact would be felt on the interactions of the Adult and Youth Orders, as Oklahoma and Arkansas Masons would be performing their roles as Masters Masons in their Adult and Youth Orders capacity, and they would not be involved in a tyled Masonic Lodge.
Second, no impact would be felt on the interactions of an Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite or York Rite functions, as they also meet in the role of their Order. They may meet in a Lodge facility but not in the tyled recesses of an ancient craft Lodge.
Lastly however, an impact would be felt with Oklahoma and Arkansas Masons meeting in each other's tyled recesses of a lodge.
Meanwhile, little information has managed to trickle out of Arkansas over the last 18 months or so. A Facebook site run by an anonymous Arkansas Mason continues to report that their trial commission retains its 100% suspension and expulsion record. I remain more than willing to print any communication, explanation, or response here by the Grand Master of Arkansas or their members at any time. 

This story will be updated if new information becomes available.


Why He Left, and Why We Need To Care - A Lot

L-R: Bro. Salman S. Sheikh, GM S. Eugene Herritt and Bro. Mohammed AlJumaili
Fred Milliken over on the Freemason Information blog site posted an article yesterday that every Freemason needs to read. And then read it again. And read it in your next stated meeting. And go back and read it again at least once a year. 

Grand masters and grand lodges—at least in the Anglo-American Masonic world—are continually obsessing over bringing new members into our lodges. Year after year, they nervously await the latest figures on membership statistics, and go out and try to put on a positive face when it drops another 5%, leaving the U.S. fraternity at levels we had prior to World War I. 

If I see one more editorial about "Appealing to Millennials," I'm going to start drinking again.

The truth that no one wants to face in Freemasonry is that we get plenty of new members every year. Plenty. But an enormous percentage of these fresh, eager new Freemasons are initiated, passed and raised, attend our business meetings, mingle with our members, see a couple of more degrees, maybe read a handful of books... and then they leave, in less than two years, on average. That is failure at the local lodge level. No grand master or grand lodge drives away new Masons by the barrel-full. Individual Masons and lodges do that all on their own. Why do they leave in such huge numbers? We apparently don't seem to give a particular damn as an institution, since we almost never ask them.

We have no business bringing another man into this fraternity until our own existing members learn to love it and live its teachings so much that new Masons won't leave as fast as they joined. 

Case in point: Fred put up a long essay by a young man who joined a lodge, believing what we claim about ourselves. 
Brother Salman S. Sheikh is a young Sufi Muslim man, and he joined a lodge at age 24, eagerly wanting to learn all he could about our philosophy and our symbolism, and wanting to truly be a part of that legendary brotherhood we like to call ourselves. He bought into all of the lofty pronouncements of Masonry being about meeting "on the level," about tolerance and brotherhood, about our mission to enlighten our own members, about the constant search for "more light in Masonry." He didn't make anything up in his head, he simply believed what Freemasons say about ourselves.

And he left after two years. He demitted because he encountered "bigotry, ignorance, and the total opposite of what a Mason really is."


Brother Sheikh tells his own story in his own words, so I won't paraphrase him. Please read his whole essay, "Why I Left Freemasonry: The First And Last In My Family To Do So." And then take a good, hard look at your lodge, your own words, and your own behavior, in real life, and especially online in what has become anti-social media these days. If you or the members of your lodge are actively engaging in un-Masonic conduct, in person or online, there are consequences for that. When you discourage excited Masons who are eager to study and explore the more esoteric teachings of the fraternity, there are consequences for that.

When Masons leave, the worst thing we can do is to not ask them why, and at least see if we can change conditions to prevent it in future. Brother Sheikh did us a favor by explaining his reasons in print, and offering up his own conclusions about it:

"My last advice to the Freemasons is that if you want this to continue to survive in a future where the young ones are keen with artificial intelligence and info at the palm of their hands, then you need to offer them something new that hasn’t been shown to them before. The practice of memorizing sacred texts, being on a chair/committee, contributing to charity is something that can be found in every church, synagogue and mosque throughout America. The real question is, what are you willing to help them realize in an environment where relationships, family, jobs, spirituality is on a totally different playing field then our previous generations? Once this question is addressed along with letting in clean hearted quality people, then we won’t hear the same tune every month of why the same 6-7 guys are showing in a lodge with 4-500 members. It’s a simple solution which if followed can be beneficial to the organization along with not showing them the same stuff every meeting and not letting Past Masters run their lodges. Give the new guys a chance, otherwise they will just see it as another boy’s club and move on with other adventures in life that could benefit them more. It’s a shame for me to say this but I learned more on my own and with likeminded spiritual people I had met before I even became a Mason than I have ever learned in a lodge or appendant body. That should not be the case."
I was engaged in a heated discussion last week with a Brother online. When I brought up the scary statistic of the number of new Masons who depart the fraternity in under two years, he actually responded, "Who needs a bunch of half hearted seekers of knowledge? Let them leave!" Brother Sheikh wasn't half-hearted. He truly WAS seeking knowledge - he hunted it, he begged for it, just as he had wanted real brotherhood. He tried to study it, research it, talk about it. He was excited. Instead, he found a hollow shell of what he was promised. And he encountered a clot of Masons who ignored their obligations and went right on publicly engaging in boorish behavior that was deliberately insulting, repugnant, and un-Masonic. 

Why would he have stayed?

Brother Sheikh hadn't joined some isolated rural lodge, or in a jurisdiction that some have looked down on as backward. He was in suburban Philadelphia, right in the East Coast region that likes to tout itself as more 'cosmopolitan' than the residents of flyover country, or the rural South, or the cornfield states that begin with "I." No, this problem is endemic, and we're lying as long as we point our fingers somewhere else and claim "It's those OTHER guys." And the Internet only makes the problem worse, because what a Mason says or does five states or a half a continent away still pops up every day online. After two years, Brother Sheikh decided that looking for another lodge wasn't the answer, because the un-Masonic behavior was too widespread. 

That's a broad brush, I know. But it is also reality, if enough people believe it.

Last year the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts did video interviews of several men who had joined a lodge and had demitted relatively quickly. Massachusetts did what almost no other jurisdiction has ever bothered to do: They asked WHY. And recorded the answers. If you are a grand officer or a district deputy or a membership committee member in another jurisdiction, do yourself a favor and contact Massachusetts to see a copy of it. And actually listen to what these men are saying about the fraternity they joined with such eagerness, and then left. Almost all of them regarded their decision to leave as a sad and tragic situation—they had been eager to join, and left only reluctantly. You all need to know why, and get your lodges to make some serious course corrections. Or encourage the creation of new lodges that understand.

Brother Sheikh's message makes it clear that he is looking for - and finding - what he sought in other places now. He sums up by saying:
"In conclusion, I am thankful for these last 2 years for what they were worth to make a difference in the organization of Freemasons in my state, country, and other nations to teach them the forgotten values of a true Mason and the true nature of one who listens to his heart and walks the path of God. I departed at age 26 in good standing and still have a lifetime ahead of me to do great things for other groups that are meant to cross my path. I am thankful to be the first in GL of PA’s history to do a program on Sufism and make the effort to bring Masonic understanding and unity while others are just worried about their legacies. My greatest legacy will be that I will remain in the hearts and minds of the Freemasons forever and that means I also live forever which is more important than statues or my name appearing in Grand Lodge digest decisions. Please continue to love each other in and out of lodge and practice what you preach because God’s all-seeing eye will hold us all accountable one day for all our seen and unseen actions. Before your meetings start, do a hand in hand meditation so even the brother who feels left out can feel a part of his brotherhood instead of looking bored or playing on his phone. I want you all to think about all these things I have addressed in my final message and I leave that burden on your shoulders from this point on with the mission of how you will carry this fraternity forward for future generations and not be in a desperate situation to keep numbers up. When your heart, mission, members, teachings, online image, etc. is all pure and designed to empower somebody then worrying about numbers should be the least of your worries because at the end 'My Faith is in God and God is my right.'"


There's an old saying that "You are someone's image of Freemasonry." Every one of us needs to take that to heart.  I wish I had gotten the opportunity to meet Brother Sheikh before he demitted, because he understood that. 

As long we as have members who say of our own Brethren who depart, "Let them leave," we will continue to shrink and fade. 

And that is a fate that the fraternity has earned all by itself.


The letter and Fred Milliken's commentary on it can be found HERE: "Masonic Anti-Intellectualism A Crying Shame"



UPDATE 11/12/2018: 

And then there's the flip side. 

A very good friend and Past Grand Master is very fond of quoting Cassius speaking to Brutus in Julius Caesar: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves..."

Yesterday Fred posted a follow up story to this one, and I urge everyone to read it as well. It's by a Brother who also decided to leave, because he too felt let down by the fraternity and what he saw as its shortcomings. And then he realized that perhaps the problem was really his own expectations when he joined.

And then he came back.
It was this shift in my perspective that lead me to realize that Freemasonry still had a great deal to offer, but only if I was willing to seize it. I was fortunate in the fact that I came to this realization on my own. I fear that few brothers in my shoes will do the same. Therefore, it is up to us to ensure that it never gets to that point in the first place...
See Bait & Switch, I Quit or Why I Left - Part 2 HERE.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Masonic Book Fair in Paris 11/17-18





In the U.S., most Masons are blissfully (or deliberately) unaware of obediences outside of those that are declared regular and are recognized by their own grand lodges. In this country, that's pretty easy to do. If you're in a mainstream lodge, you probably don't think very much about it. If you're in a Prince Hall lodge, it's sometimes a tighter circle, but you're still probably at least aware of what the mainstream world is doing, and in all but nine states, you also have options to intervisit. But virtually no one in these two largest Masonic bodies in America have any idea what goes on in the other various independent, female or mixed Masonic obediences here, and all of our paths cross so infrequently (apart from online, perhaps) that the subject almost never arises at all.

That's not the case when it comes to France.

While U.S. grand lodges only recognize the Grande Loge National Françcaise, there are no less than sixteen substantial grand bodies and obediences of Freemasons at work in that country – male, female and mixed, regular and irregular. But instead of deliberately ignoring each other and pretending that the others don't exist, French Masons tend to be far more cordial and laissez faire than we are. There are numerous cultural and historical reasons for that which simply don't exist elsewhere in the Masonic world.

Case in point: If you've ever visited a Masonic bookstore in that country, you know that the French have an insatiable appetite for books about Freemasonry. Albert Mackey once lamented that American Freemasons don't read. French Masons aren't afflicted with that character quirk. Consequently, each year, the Institut Maçonnique de France (Masonic Institute of France) hosts an enormous book fair in Paris for the purpose of promoting Masonic literature throughout the entire French speaking Masonic community. 

It's a shame that we don't have anything similar in this country.

The Salon Maçonnique du Livre de Paris (Masonic Salon of the Book in Paris) on November 16-17 will be its 16th year. This year's venue will be at La Bellevilloise at 19 Rue Boyer, in Paris' 20th Arrondissement.

From their press release:
Organized by the Institut Maçonnique de France,  this event is a unique opportunity for all audiences to discover Freemasonry by the prism of culture and literature in contact: from a village composed of the 16 main persuasions of French Masonry of over 60 authors and designers of many publishers of books, magazines, comics.
To answer all your questions, you will be able to meet and attend and participate in ten roundtables, three conferences, as well as the many signing sessions.
Seven Literary awards from the Institut Maçonnique de France including the coveted humanism prize, will be delivered on Sunday, 18 November 2017, in the
Visitors will also be able to win books during a raffle organized Sunday November 18 at the closing of the salon.
The 16th Masonic Salon of the Paris book is:
- free and free entry for any public- 16 French persuasions present- 10 round tables- 3 conferences- dozens of book publishers, magazines and comics- more than 60 authors confirmed- books to win- catering on site and many restaurants and breweries nearby
For lunch at the exhibit hall's restaurant, reservations are mandatory by e-mail. Contact: Eric Algrain, Salon Commissioner 06.07.99.61.73 ea.imf@orange.fr
Information about the Institut Maçonnique de France can be found at http://www.i-m-f.fr